Search and collaboration functionality for family history visualization startup company.



I used research, testing, and design to build a web app for a family history product with a small group of students at the University of Utah. Solved problems for client and persona within collaboration, sharing, and search functions.

• Interviewed family history product (, Roots Magic, FamilySearch) users

• Persona and scenario development

• Uncovered user concerns/issues/problems

• Designed application that addressed search, sharing, and user collaboration

• Conducted usability testing with InVision and Sketch designs

• Collaborated with team of graduate/undergrad students

• Presented findings, designs, and brief to the client


The persona

We decided to segment the wide range of responses we gathered from user interviews so we could develop a single persona to build prototypes for.We developed Lauren, a single, 24-year-old woman who is native to the state of Utah. She works full-time, likes to be social, and has very close ties to her family. She is new to family history work but wants to get going on it amid her busy life.She could benefit from improved sharing and collaboration methods. She likes working with people, so having the option to work with the other thousands of users would be very useful to her. It would also motivate her to find others to collaborate and share with. She’s tech savvy enough to use most basic software programs, but she isn’t a professional genealogist. She needs a program that she can stick to long-term. She may get married in the next five years and have children, so it’s not like her time will ever open up more than it is today. And she would like to work on genealogy into the future with her family.





Usability Testing

Usability testing is used to test tools designers create by presenting them to users to test out. This is done by giving participants a series of scenarios with tasks to complete so they can go through designs testing specific elements and providing feedback. This is most effective when users speak through their experience and explain their thoughts as they go along. Typically once the tasks are completed, designers ask participants follow-up questions and make updates to their design based on their findings.

Our group performed two rounds of testing with two participants each. For our first round of testing both our testers were a little outside our target audience as they were of a higher age but as far as experience with computers, and social media they fit the bill. We had them perform two tasks. First, because we had created a login page, we had them act as though they had forgotten their login information and find an alternate way to login. The purpose of this was mainly to get them to connect their account to their Facebook account. However, each participant stated that they didn’t feel comfortable linking their account to Facebook and would have used an alternate route to recover their password and login rather than logging in with their Facebook credentials. I wondered whether this had to do with age and whether a younger audience, like our target audience, would not have found logging in through Facebook as cumbersome and maybe would have found it to be a faster alternative. However, after the testing, since logging in wasn’t directly correlated with the problems we were creating tools for the site for, we decided to do away with the login page altogether and focus on our core tools.

The second task we gave our first participants was to connect their account to their social media accounts. Our initial design had “social” within the user’s profile under a social tab. Each participant struggled to find the social tab and expressed that having the social tab within their profile settings was confusing.

With this feedback, we decided to make a landing page that housed our “collaboration”, “social”, and “search” tools that would lead you to a page about each respective tool as can be seen below.

Our second round of testing was performed on two mid-twenties women with intermediate level computer experience and strong social media ties. They were a lot more similar to our target audience than our first testers, however, they had no experience with family history. The tasks we had them perform were different than the tasks we had our first participants perform because we had made updates after the initial round of testing. The first task we had each participant perform was to import and share a record. Both of our participants found importing a record to be simple and straightforward but became confused when sharing a record didn’t come up as a follow-up step immediately afterward or was even found in the collaboration tab. Both participants became frustrated when they had to navigate through our social tab to find the sharing option. Further, each expressed that it was annoying to see the “tree”, “collaborate”, “search”, and “connect” sections but have no indication what each section was about without having to navigate away from the main page. After hearing this feedback we decided to integrate “internal sharing” with collaboration and simplify our main page by making a side-bar with each of our tools as dropdowns which you can see below.

The second task they performed was to connect their account to their social media accounts. Both participants found the task easy to complete and we, therefore, decided to make no adjustments to our social section.

Finally, after performing both rounds of user testing we made many improvements to our tools and believe they have improved greatly. I think another round of testing could be useful at this point, though.




This is a mockup of the collaboration and chat functions in a side drawer. The idea was to free up space in the header and leave plenty of room to work in the white space. 

This iteration uses a more prominent search function in the header. The idea is to give the user more prompts as they type if they don't know where to start.

Where to go from here

We believe that with the tools that we created the client could have a more successful website by improving searching capabilities and making family lines more collaborative. Having a more collaborative interface would give users the ability to share their work and to potentially work with others during their family history searches, this way users don’t have to use multiple platforms to complete their work.